The Response

The hardest part of this stage of his plan was getting the responses before anyone else saw them.

At least twice a day, Edmund had to work his way to one of the servants entrances, slip outside, and dash all the way down the lane to catch the postman before he rode up Haggard Hill to slip the post into Ung’s waiting hands. The postman seemed confused by Edmund’s request to look at the post before letting him pass, but he was Young Master Edmund, after all, and that still carried some weight.

He managed somehow without being seen, and finally, a week and a half after he had sent his letters, the responses he had hoped for arrived in thick yellow envelopes with brilliant red, tan, and purple wax seals.

He read the responses quickly, and later that day he carried out a few quick errands in the city. Now, he just had to wait.

The intermeaning days passed slowly, full of hastily stolen food and time spent in his room and the library, practicing his manners and rehearsing a few choice speeches and dialogues. Still, as confident as he was in his scheme, there was a small sliver of fear that he had guessed wrong about his family–that while he was spying, he would hear something that would cause his whole plan to collapse like everyone elses’ plans seemed to. But three weeks passed, and he heard nothing but confirmation of his expectations.

And so, as the third week after he escaped the crypt came to its close, he slipped out of the walls behind Ung, eager to repay him for the several sudden appearances that had startled him so often during his stay at Moulde Hall.

“Excuse me, Ung,” he said, a bit louder than usual. Ung turned slowly, his face completely unfazed.

“Yes, young master?” he asked, his tone unchanged. Edmund felt a little disappointed.

“Can you fetch my cousins and have them join me in the large sitting room?”

“As you say, young master,” Ung gave a small bow, heavy hand over his heart. “At what time shall I tell them to meet you?”

“Five-o-clock sharp,” he said, heading to the sitting room to wait. “Oh, and Ung? Don’t tell any of them it’s a family meeting. Let them think I want to speak to each of them alone.”

The largest chair in the sitting room was almost three times as tall as Edmund. It was clearly the spot reserved for the head of the family. Edmund only paused a moment when he entered the room before striding to it as confidently as he could, and sitting himself down. He felt a little silly, like a doll propped up by a child, but he grit his teeth and forced himself to stay. He had worked hard to earn the right to sit in that chair, he wasn’t going to give it up just because he was self-conscious.

He waited for almost a quarter of an hour, staring into the massive empty fireplace, worrying that no one would come. He was hoping that the sudden shock of Edmund’s reappearance, to say nothing of the novelty of a personal request, would pique their curiosity enough to attend, but it also wasn’t hard to imagine his cousins simply laughing and carrying on with their day.

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